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by Joseph M. Balkoski

Author of Omaha Beach and Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy

Published by Stackpole Books

The Story of Utah Beach: June 6, 1944

Utah is the "forgotten" D-Day beach, overshadowed by the carnage of Omaha. But in retrospect the Utah Beach invasion was one of the most successful American offensives of World War II, combining a conventional amphibious assault with a huge airborne operation. The invasion was brilliantly planned and executed, and the airborne "vertical envelopment" greatly reduced enemy resistance against the seaborne invaders. By the close of D-Day, nearly equal numbers of American troops had been deposited into the Utah beachhead as on Omaha, and they came much closer to achieving the ambitious objectives set out by Overlord planners.

In Utah Beach , Joseph Balkoski describes this amazing military operation in detail, from the first paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to land in France, courtesy of the highly skilled pilots and air crews of the Ninth Air Force's Troop Carrier Command; to the initial waves of the 4th Infantry Division to hit the beach in Navy and Coast Guard landing craft.

Overwhelmingly based on original D-Day reports and unit records, Utah Beach brings the modern reader into the planning rooms in England and battlefields of Normandy for a unique perspective on the D-Day invasion. It is a fitting tribute to D-Day veterans and an indispenable history of one of America's - and indeed the world's - most important days.

Selected Excerpts From Utah Beach


It was up to Troop Carrier now. The lives of American soldiers, and General Bradley's reputation as a responsible commander, depended on how well Troop Carrier's aviators had learned their jobs. It all came down to depositing 82nd and 101st Airborne paratroopers on or near their Cotentin drop zones before dawn on D-Day in a reasonably compact manner. But this seemingly straightforward task was actually incredibly difficult. Drop zones looked neat on maps, but finding them in the dark, even on a night with a full moon, could challenge even the best pilots and navigators -- and maps did not shoot back. Furthermore, from the comparatively low altitude of 700 feet, the Cotentin's jigsaw bocage had a sameness that was utterly baffling. But worst of all, while searching for their murky drop zones, C-47 pilots had to keep a shap lookout for friendly aircraft. Compact parachute drops required tight wingtip-to-wingtip formations, demanding constant pilot attention if midair collisions were to be avoided.


Four miles away, in that desolate marsh where the Douve River and countless canals and tributaries twist and turn on their way down to the sea, the roles of hunter and hunted were reversed. The 101st Airborne's 501st Parachute Infantry had come to earth here, and its commander, Col. Howard Johnson, did not take long to discern that his regiment had landed in a hornet's nest in which the enemy held the upper hand tactically from the start. Like Colonel Sink of the 506th, Johnson was initially astonished by the fact that the noctural airdrop had seemingly caused his regiment to evaporate. Battalions that held orders to seize objectives with hundreds of men were forced to make the attempt with only a few. The rest, including several key commanders, had disappeared into the bocage or had been promptly shot or captured upon landing in the midst of an entire German battalion from the 91st Division that had been posted in and near the village of St. Come du Mont. But paratroopers had been trained to carry on despite the inevitable chaos of a nighttime drop, and that is precisely what Johnson intended to do.


Ted Roosevelt clearly believed in that old army adage that generals must lead from the front. Roosevelt had been with the 4th Division for only a few months, but he was already a bona fide hero to those fighting men whose highest praise for a leader with stars on his helmet could be summed up by the simple phrase "a soldier's soldier." Roosevelt was indeed such a man, and the memory of him armed with nothing but a walking stick, limping up and down Utah Beach and the causeways beyond, was one that hundreds of 4th Division veterans would evoke in old age when they recalled D-Day. Such a remembrance was particularly poignant, because a month after the invasion, Roosevelt was dead.

CLICK HERE if you would like to order a copy of Utah Beach, signed by Joseph Balkoski.